Tips for Hard of Hearing Parents and Grandparents
As a hard of hearing (HOH) mother of three, I can become frustrated with not hearing my children’s voices well. And I am not alone. According to the Deafness Research Foundation, 17 percent of American adults report some degree of hearing loss. Many are parents or grandparents. Among them is Mary Butler of Tennessee, a hard of hearing mother of a 9 month-old child. Because of the challenges of understanding a child’s delicate voice, Butler said she would think twice before watching other people’s children. “It is very difficult, if next to impossible, to discern what they are saying,” Butler said. “I’ve met children who became very frustrated with me because they thought I wasn’t paying attention to them. Let’s just say I am happy to baby sit a newborn, but once they reach the age where they start talking, I’ll pass.” Among the communication difficulties noted by Deborah Wolter and Kathleen Quinn in their article “Young Children in Families with a Parent with Hearing Loss” (Hearing Loss, July/August 1999) are:
- Lack of dialogue between kids and their HOH parents
- HOH adults using older children as interpreters for younger kids
- Failure to hear a child’s night crying and identify its cause
- Tantrums, whining or frustration among children when unable to get the adult’s attention
- Younger kids gesturing, pointing or leading the HOH adult instead of talking
- Encourage your children to speak clearly by teaching them proper word pronunciation. Emphasize each vowel and consonant sound, particularly the “softer” consonant sounds of “t,” “s” “f” and “v.”
- Ask the child to turn off any toys or music before speaking, since both create background noise.
- When your kids are in the backseat while you are driving a car, ask them to wait until you are at a stoplight to communicate with you, if at all possible. Try not to respond to comments from children unless the car is stopped. The FM hearing device (mentioned above) may help with hearing their voices.
- In other situations, respond to a child’s question or comment only if he or she is facing you. Eventually, the child will understand the importance of eye contact in communicating with a HOH person.
- If you don’t understand what a child said, resist the urge to pretend you did. Instead say, “My ears didn’t hear you. Please tell me again.”